Transforming Parental Yelling: Strategies for Emotional Regulation and Building Stronger Connections with Your Children

Transforming Parental Yelling: Strategies for Emotional Regulation and Building Stronger Connections with Your Children

Yelling! We all lose the plot sometimes.

Parenting a little one and living in a state of high alert, sleep deprivation and less time with yourself is a potent combination. We are human, we all have our triggers. The occasional rant isn't pretty or pleasant but it doesn't mean you've left your child emotionally scarred for life. Children are exceptionally forgiving but they are resilient too and trust in the love that exists within the relationship. But what if you find yourself regularly shouting, yelling or arguing with your child? Or worse still you catch yourself belittling, blaming or undermining your child when triggered? The after-feeling may leave you guilty, upset and self-doubting.

Arguing is also the quickest way to teach your child to argue and pretty soon you're in a downward spiral of unhappy behaviours and emotional overwhelm.

You know you'd never shout at a stranger so why do we find ourselves shouting at the little person we love so intensely? Here are our suggestions for supporting yourself to react less and repair well:

Triggers are old fears

We get triggered when we fear our own needs won't be met. Those needs might be time alone or for uninterrupted sleep or unchallenged cooperation. Our children challenge our needs all the time because they are so committed to meeting their own. Often our triggering fears are unconscious to us and come from our own childhood experiences of significant unmet needs.

When children push our buttons, they push our hurts from childhood.

The child is always innocent

Our children act from innocence. Their job is to get what they want, when they want it which means their behaviour is not a personal attack on you. Just like our children we adults can experience a sense of powerlessness and vulnerability which can bring up fear and insecurity. We might feel our child's emotional outbursts threaten our need for peace. Sometimes the insecure thoughts might be that our child's misbehaviour is a reflection of our parenting.

Remember that your child's motivations are 100% innocent and impersonal - they want the same as us - peace of mind and a sense of connection.

Noticing is awareness

Noticing the feeling, whatever it is, brings awareness. It is this awareness that allows for the nanosecond in which we can move from reacting to responding. Simply notice. That might sound in your head like 'oh look at me, I'm so mad right now' or 'I'm so angry'. Over time, the more we notice the thoughts the less power these thoughts have over us.

Re-wiring reaction

When we notice the feelings we can respond differently. Each time we respond differently we give the brain the option to handle the same trigger differently in future. Responding might look like taking a few minutes out; "mummy is feeling a lot of feelings right now and I'm going to take 2 minutes to breath and I'll be back shortly" or "I'm noticing I'm yelling and need to take a moment to myself to calm down".

Apologise from the heart

If you've yelled there is repair to be made. Don't apologise until you're ready. Apologise when your heart has softened and you can act with sincerity, humility and vulnerability. Take full responsibility for your actions - in other words don't blame anyone else for your feelings by saying "you made me angry" or "I wouldn't have yelled if you hadn't said…" Children really respect and feel safe when we are honest about our feelings without blaming.

Owning your apology is a deeply powerful way to model emotional intelligence and self-regulation.

Listen without blame

When things have calmed down after an upsetting argument or yelling, allow for feelings to be heard. Upset is often transformed by the simple act of someone listening to us empathetically. A really helpful simple rule when sharing as a family is to focus on 'I' statements. For example, "I feel irritated when I believe I'm not being respected…" or "I feel angry if I think I'm going to be late". Holding the intention to not lay blame is so important to keeping communication open and trusting. When our children have chance to be heard they often transform our perspectives and expose our assumptions.

Inviting self-created solutions

Invite your child to share their own solutions. If the topic at the centre of the argument is likely to come up again it can be wonderful to discover how creative and thoughtful your child's solutions are. It's also good to know that when we figure out a way forward we are more committed to following the idea through. Inviting solutions works in so many situations - your child's inner creative genius is always ready to be tapped! Remember too that your child wants to trust in your own problem-solving abilities.

Build connection

We can all feel a little raw after yelling and your child will usually look for comfort and reassurance. Offer affection if it feels like the right time - affection is so deeply positive for everyone involved. Reconnecting requires time, attention and interest in the child's world - play is the quickest way to talk their language. Physical play such as rough and tumble or child-led role-play games are great ways for feelings to be released and processed too. More than anything your child wants to feel your genuine love and care. Sometimes this doesn't even need words - it's a felt experience. When they feel it your child can rest in love and peace will be restored.

Notice the guilt

There are no pay-offs to feeling guilty. Guilt depletes our life energy and separates us from seeing what's really present. Affording ourselves some forgiveness, gratitude and love replenishes our life energy. When we do this we become models of grace and wisdom. Fallible but human.

Offload the feelings

Journalling can help write down the feelings - the page can take anything and nobody gets hurt. Alternatively set up a listening partnership with a friend who is willing to listen while you download the feelings. It's always better to offload by some other means rather than directing your frustration and anger at your children. If you'd like more support with handling triggers, yelling, power struggles, building connection or parenting in general we offer 30 or 60 minute Parent Conversations and an online accredited Positive Discipline Course. Go well x